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Council Reporting

What services are the council responsible for?

County Council

They are responsible for services across the whole of a county which include:

  • Education
  • Social Services
  • Roads and transport
  • Waste disposal
  • Economic development
  • Countrywide planning and the environment
  • Protecting the public
  • Libraries

District, borough and city councils

Cover a smaller area than county councils, services include:

  • Rubbish collection
  • Leisure and amenities
  • Collection of council tax
  • Environmental health
  • Planning permission
  • Tourism
  • Housing needs services

Parish and Town Councils

Parish or town councils are elected and can help on a number of local issues:

  • Allotments
  • Bus Shelters
  • cemeteries
  • Children’s playgrounds
  • Grants for local projects/organisations
  • Halls for social clubs and meetings
  • Parish lighting
  • Recreation/sports fields
  • Traffic calming measures
  • War memorial maintenance

What do councillors do?

Day to-day running of services carried out by council officers/employees

The policy/decision makers are the locally elected councillors.

Councillors are usually elected under a political ticket ie Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem etc … Each major party has its own ‘group’ on the council which includes offices etc and employs admin staff and policy researchers

Approximately a third of the council is elected every year.  There are no elections every fourth year.

A councillor’s term of office is usually four years before the seat is subject to elections again.

Councillors are democratically accountable to residents of the city and their ward. The overriding duty of councillors is to the whole community, but they have a special duty to their constituents, including those who did not vote for them.

How would you report on council?

  • A principal role of local press is to hold council to account
  • Attending council meetings
  • Investigating through FOI requests
  • Democracy sites
  • Through local people’s campaigns and complaints
  • Press releases, from council and political parties

What makes a good community reporter?

 

  • Meetings do matter’- Every meeting will be discussing something that effects a section of the public.
  • punctuality It will allow people to get to know your face and build a connection. Potential for more ‘off the record’ comments etc.
  • Go beyond the press release and question agenda of every decision.
  • Don’t re-hash and regurgitate news story, try to find a personal angle.
  • Try be-friend local trade union leaders.
  • Don’t neglect Parish councils.
  • Read the minutes on council websites and local planning applications.
  • Build direct contacts and get interviews.
  • Utilise social media to gauge opinion and build contacts.
  •  Utilise ‘ Freedom of Information Act’ requests.
  • Check ‘Hyperlocal’ websites.

Why is council reporting important?

  • Report issues that affect the local community and raise local concerns.
  • Unravel the jargon and lay out stories in layman’s terms for the public.
  • To find out where tax payers money is being spent.
  • Gives an insight into election candidates.

What happens when the ‘fourth estate’ fails to hold local authority and government to account?

They will knowingly or inadvertently get away with things. The public need to be informed.

Hold individuals to account.

Allows systematic failings to continue e.g. Grenfell Tower Block

Without reporting it, it can allow propaganda and PR to be spread.

Useful websites:

Fix my street– Allows people to report local issues. Potentially a source of stories.

What do they know – Allows you to place Freedom of Information requests.

My society – Allows you to write to politicians for free.

They work for you – Gives MP details: what they voted for/against, recent appearances, who has contributed money to their campaigns etc.

 

Ofcom scenarios

Reporting on a homeless, drug user who has been attacked. He has said that “the police are a f..ing joke. I’ll deck the..”

What are the issues involved?

  • Section 2-Harm and offence
  • Section 3-Crime, disorder, hatred and abuse

2.1 Generally accepted standards must be applied to the contents of television and radio services and BBC ODPS so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion in such services of harmful and/or offensive material.

Offensive material may include offensive language, violence, sex, sexual violence, humiliation, distress, violation of human dignity, discriminatory treatment or language (for example on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation, and marriage and civil partnership).

2.4 Programmes must not include material (whether in individual programmes or in programmes taken together) which, taking into account the context, condones or glamorises violent, dangerous or seriously antisocial behaviour and is likely to encourage others to copy such behaviour.

3.1 Material likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or to lead to disorder must not be included in television or radio services or BBC ODPS.

hate speech which is likely to encourage criminal activity or lead to disorder

3.2 Material which contains hate speech must not be included in television and radio programmes or BBC ODPS except where it is justified by the context.

3.3 Material which contains abusive or derogatory treatment of individuals, groups, religions or communities, must not be included in television and radio services or BBC ODPS except where it is justified by the context.

 

A witness in an 8 car pile up due to give evidence in court is offered £500 for his story.

Which rule applies?

  • Section 3-Crime, disorder, hatred and abuse

3.6 While criminal proceedings are active, no payment or promise of payment may be made, directly or indirectly, to any witness or any person who may reasonably be expected to be called as a witness. Nor should any payment be suggested or made dependent on the outcome of the trial. Only actual expenditure or loss of earnings necessarily incurred during the making of a programme contribution may be reimbursed.

3.7 Where criminal proceedings are likely and foreseeable, payments should not be made to people who might reasonably be expected to be witnesses unless there is a clear public interest, such as investigating crime or serious wrongdoing, and the payment is necessary to elicit the information. Where such a payment is made it will be appropriate to disclose the payment to both defence and prosecution if the person becomes a witness in any subsequent trial.

 

A builder is accused of ripping off his customers, taking payment for unfinished work etc. You interview the victims but are unable to contact the builder.

Can you run the story?

Not according to:

  • Section 5-Due impartiality and due accuracy
  • Section 7-Fairness

5.1 News, in whatever form, must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.

5.7 Views and facts must not be misrepresented. Views must also be presented with due weight over appropriate timeframes.

7.1 Broadcasters must avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals or organisations in programmes.

7.9    Before broadcasting a factual programme, including programmes examining past events, broadcasters should take reasonable care to satisfy themselves that:

material facts have not been presented, disregarded or omitted in a way that is unfair to an individual or organisation; and

anyone whose omission could be unfair to an individual or organisation has been offered an opportunity to contribute.

7.11 If a programme alleges wrongdoing or incompetence or makes other significant allegations, those concerned should normally be given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond.

7.12 Where a person approached to contribute to a programme chooses to make no comment or refuses to appear in a broadcast, the broadcast should make clear that the individual concerned has chosen not to appear and should give their explanation if it would be unfair not to do so.

7.13 Where it is appropriate to represent the views of a person or organisation that is not participating in the programme, this must be done in a fair manner.

 

A store in the shopping centre is being closed down and 20 people are going to lose their jobs.

What should you consider before rushing down there to cover the story?

  • Section 8-Privacy

Consent

Any infringement of privacy in the making of a programme should be with the person’s and/or organisation’s consent or be otherwise warranted.

8.6    If the broadcast of a programme would infringe the privacy of a person or organisation, consent should be obtained before the relevant material is broadcast, unless the infringement of privacy is warranted.

8.11 Doorstepping for factual programmes should not take place unless a request for an interview has been refused or it has not been possible to request an interview, or there is good reason to believe that an investigation will be frustrated if the subject is approached openly, and it is warranted to doorstep. However, normally broadcasters may, without prior warning interview, film or record people in the news when in public places.

Doorstepping is the filming or recording of an interview or attempted interview with someone, or announcing that a call is being filmed or recorded for broadcast purposes, without any prior warning.

Also to be taken in to consideration sections 1 and 5: the age of the employees and wether it is impartial and accurate.

 

You name the suspect of a terror attack on air and then further information reveals the true offender.

What must you do?

  • Section 5-Due impartiality and due accuracy

5.1 News, in whatever form, must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.

5.2 Significant mistakes in news should normally be acknowledged and corrected on air quickly (or, in the case of BBC ODPS, corrected quickly). Corrections should be appropriately scheduled (or, in the case of BBC ODPS, appropriately signalled to viewers).

 

 

 

Student Blog

My name is Sally Brown and this is my first blog entry as a year one  student on the BA (Hons) Journalism and Digital Media course at Hull College. I am a mature student, returning to study with the view to  finding a career in Journalism (as opposed to the many jobs I have previously done).

This isn’t my first experience of Higher Education, I started studying towards a Psychology degree with The Open University. This later became an Open Degree as I found that the statistical side of Psychology was both time-consuming and laborious. I decided that an Open Degree would enable me to choose the subjects that I enjoyed and was good at.

Having chosen a Creative Writing module I re-kindled my love of both reading and writing. However, I realised that distance learning was not suitable for me. My major difficulty was time management and motivation. Also the lack of feedback and input from peers made it a very solitary way to study. I decided I needed to be in a classroom type of environment with more contact and a set study programme. Hence my decision to embark upon this course.

Weekly Reflection

The induction week is in the past and the first week of study just finished. So far I am enjoying the course and looking forward to the challenge ahead. We have been introduced to the modules we will be studying and also to assignments, which is rather daunting.

The course is very different to anything I have previously studied. I am more familiar with essay writing and academic studies. The practical, hands-on approach to learning ,the technology and digital media are all very new to me. Fortunately, I do have some basic computer skills and although it may take me a bit longer to grasp I’m sure I’ll get there!